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Sowetan has previously reported that the street drug nyaope was not classified as an illegal substance and police officials and prosecutors were thus struggling to stem the trade and use of the physically and mentally debilitating drug.
But now the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has said it is in the process of amending the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act 140 of 1992 "with a view to ensure that those arrested for possession and dealing in the substance referred to as 'nyaope' or 'wunga', (as it is commonly known in KwaZulu-Natal), are successfully prosecuted".
"This is in the wake of the escalating rate of abuse which is also believed to be the cause of some heinous crimes committed around the country as well as the non-classification of this substance as an illegal drug," said department spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga.
Nyaope consists of a concoction of anti-retroviral drugs, milk powder, rat poison, bicarbonate of soda and pool cleaner, and is usually laced with a cheap form of heroin. It is commonly smoked with dagga or sometimes tobacco.
Mhaga said heroin and dagga were already listed as undesirable dependence-producing substances in the act which prohibits the use, possession, production and commercialisation thereof.
"While it is true that prosecution for possession and dealing in nyaope is legally impossible, prosecution of people found in possession may proceed if the substance contains other prohibited drugs like heroin and dagga as they are illegal drugs in terms of the Act," he said.
He said his department was in consultation with the Department of Health.
"The amendment will prohibit possession and dealing in any mixture that contains chemical substances that have the same effect as the prohibited and illegal substances," he said.
But the DA has lambasted the Department of Social Development for failing to appoint a Central Drug Authority (CDA) board.
The board advises the minister on drug abuse and promotes measures for the prevention and combating of drug abuse and the treatment of persons dependent on drugs.
"Abuse of this substance has been linked to criminal activity, particularly in Gauteng, but without classification, the police cannot tackle the problem," said DA MP Mike Waters. "It is essential for the drug to be classified as soon as possible.
"The required review of the national drug master plan is now a year overdue, and the minister has failed to appoint new board members to the CDA, after the previous board was dissolved at the end of September."
"[This] means we do not have a functioning government institution to tackle substance abuse." - firstname.lastname@example.org